Art, sushi and David Lynch
by Sean Hood
It was 1989 and I was sitting at a sushi bar telling my father that I hated my job testing business software, and that, having just settled on the idea, what I really wanted to do was break into the film business. A man nearby us at the bar (who may or may not have had too many sakes) overheard me complaining, and he suggested that I quit my current job, come down to the set he was working on, and be an unpaid intern. Without really thinking it through, I agreed.
I remember arriving on the location somewhere deep in the canyons at 5:30 AM. I had no idea where to go, whom to report to, or what I was expected to do. I just hung around the trucks watching the grips unload booms, jibs and dollies, wondering if I was allowed to drink the coffee. I couldn’t believe that any place in the greater Los Angeles area could get that cold. Finally, my sponsor spotted me and waved me over.
He told me he was the best boy, and I nodded my head as if I understood what that could possibly mean. He asked me which department I wanted to work in, and I gave myself three or four seconds to think it over. I had just graduated college with a degree in pure mathematics and studio art, but I was fairly certain they didn’t have a math department. I said, “uhh… Art?”
Minutes later, I was running up a steep hill with two set dressers lugging potted evergreens. After twelve hours of carrying foam boulders and Plexiglas streetlights off and on trucks, I felt more physically and mentally exhausted than I had ever been in my life. “What’s the name of this show, anyway,” I asked one of the swing gang. Twin Peaks, he said. “You know who that guy is over there?”
“That guy over there” was speaking in a way that reminded me of Mr. Rogers, if Mr. Rogers had dropped acid. I shook my head. “That’s David Lynch.”
Twenty five years later, I‘ve worked as a set dresser, an art director, an editor, a videographer, a director, and even an actor, but mostly as a screenwriter. I used the money I saved working on movies like True Lies and Fight Club to pay for a graduate degree at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. I’ve been lucky enough to get a few television episodes and feature films produced over the years, even if one of them is liable to sweep this year’s Razzies.
Now, I spend a couple of days a week teaching and blogging for no other reason than to listen for voices at the other end of the sushi bar. The first lesson I learned about the film business was that I had an obligation to share opportunities and experience, if only so the others might learn from my mistakes and take a shot at doing better.
A few months ago, I was on a location scout for a TV movie in Calgary. It was -17 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cold reminded me somehow of that first day in the canyons. I thought of Richard Franchot, the actor/director/producer/best boy who had invited me to the Twin Peaks set, but who none-the-less looked a bit surprised that I had actually shown up.
I remember his long-toothed crooked smile as he said, “Hey kid, welcome to the asylum.”Tags: Best boy, Breaking into Hollywood, David Lynch, Film and TV production, First Hollywood job, Hollywood, Screenwriter, Sean Hood, Twin Peaks (TV show), USC's School of Cinematic Arts